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Melena (Blood in Stool) in Dogs

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Diagnosis In-depth

Obtaining a complete medical history, and performing a thorough physical examination are necessary in order to create an appropriate diagnostic plan for the patient with melena. An extensive battery of tests is often required to identify or isolate the specific cause, and such tests may include:

  • A complete blood count (CBC) to evaluate for the presence of infection, inflammation and anemia associated with some diseases that cause melena

  • A biochemical profile to rule out metabolic causes of melena, and to evaluate electrolyte and protein levels

  • A urinalysis to evaluate the kidneys, the hydration status of the patient, and the presence of blood in the urine

  • Fecal tests for parasites and fecal culture for bacteria

  • A coagulation profile and platelet count to assess blood clotting

  • Abdominal radiographs (X-rays) to evaluate the abdominal organs and possibly identify foreign material or a tumor

  • Chest radiographs to evaluate for the presence of fluid (blood) or metastasis (spread of tumor) in the lungs

    Your veterinarian may recommend additional tests to ensure optimal medical care. These are selected on a case-by-case basis:

  • Serologic tests for certain infectious diseases that may cause melena

  • An ACTH stimulation test to rule out hypoadrenocorticism (Addison's disease)

  • Bile acids tests if liver disease was identified on the biochemistry test

  • A blood lead assay if there has been exposure to lead, or if there is material that looks like lead visible on abdominal x-rays

  • Abdominal ultrasonography to evaluate the size, shape and texture of abdominal organs and help assess the presence of tumors and foreign bodies

  • An upper gastrointestinal (GI) barium (dye) series of x-rays, especially when the above tests fail to reveal the cause of melena

  • Upper GI endoscopy, which involves the insertion of a flexible viewing scope into the stomach and upper small intestines

  • Exploratory surgery of the abdomen for undiagnosed disease or cases requiring corrective surgery

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